U.S. Services Sector Expands in April

Growth in the U.S. services sector accelerated in April, rising at the fastest pace in eight months as new orders jumped and overall activity quickened by the most since early 2008, an industry report showed on Monday.

The Institute for Supply Management said its services sector index rose to 55.2 in April from 53.1 in March, topping expectations for a read of 54.1. The data provides further evidence that economic activity is regaining momentum after lagging through much of the winter, a lull largely blamed on harsh weather.

The April read marked the 52nd straight month the index was above 50, the level that separates expansion from contraction, and was the latest sign the impact of the harsh winter was ebbing.

Moreover, the April pace was the highest since August's reading of 57.9, which had been a seven-year high.

The gauge of business activity surged to 60.9 from 53.4 in March and was well above analysts' forecasts of 54.4. The 7.5-point jump was that measure's largest monthly increase since February 2008 when it rose 10.3 points.

The new orders index rose to 58.2, up 4.8 points from 53.4 the month before. That marked the largest monthly increase since March 2010, when it jumped 7.5 points.

Both the new orders and business activity indexes were their highest overall since August.

The employment index dipped to 51.3 from 53.6 in March, although that conflicts with a strong reading on private-sector services employment reported by the U.S. Labor Department on Friday. The government data showed service-sector hiring expanded last month by the most in 11 months, with 220,000 private-sector services jobs added.